As soon as I master more of the mystifying machinations of WordPress, I will attempt to upload images of Emma’s watercolors and a few of my food photos to accompany my recipes.
Speaking of food, to add levity to my current circumstances, I am reading Peter Mayle’s Encore Provence, his third autobiographic work relating his and his wife’s adventures living in the South of France. Every time I sit down to read this book, I get hungry. This is because Mayle is writing mostly about food here – the pâtés, the flaky, buttery crusts, tearing off the end of a warm baguette and eating it on the way home from the boulangerie, and the wines, oh, the wines. Years ago Peter Mayle, as you may know, worked in England as an advertising executive, didn’t like it, quit and moved to Provence to write. I had read his earlier two books, A Year in Provence and Toujours Provence, telling us about his and his wife’s new life in the region, the colorful natives, the long French lunches, memorably the seven hour lunch that made him late for dinner, and the wines. I’m fond of calling such events here at home “Gone with the Wine.” Holding his book in my lap and reading it, I find Peter Mayle to be quite a charming companion. He could be sitting in the room, glass of wine raised, chatting with me. Mayle’s stories are fast reads, colorfully crafted with a fine blend of keen observation, English humor and hilarity. In 1993, PBS made A Year in Provencea mini-series, starring the late, great British actor John Thaw.
John Thaw also consummately portrayed Inspector Morse in the eponymous detective PBS Mystery series. Having missed this series when it first aired from 1987 to 2000, I have been watching it recently on DVD. There are 33 episodes, thankfully. It is the best mystery writing this side of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie. Colin Dexter wrote the Inspector Morse detective novel series. He made a cameo appearance in every TV episode, as you may know if you’ve seen the series. Colin Dexter had been a Morse code operator during World War II. Right up my alley, these stories: many scenes feature Inspector Morse listening to classical music as he drives in his classic burgundy Mark 2 Jaguar or relaxing at home – suddenly cut off, naturally, by a call about a murder (and he hated viewing the victim).
As I write this, I am listening to Mozart’s Serenade in B-Flat Major, K.361, “Gran Partita.” It is a delightful piece for wind instruments, an airy, equable and serene, charmingly orchestrated piece, in the color of soft cobalt blue, as my senses receive it. Sections impel you to bob your head from side to side, even get up and dance a gigue; other sections are simply calming; none, though, blue as in low spirits – this is quite a happy piece.
Speaking of Agatha Christie, I took a trip the other night on The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, courtesy of PBS (and its supporters) and British actor David Suchet, who impeccably portrayed Christie’s Belgian detective Hercule Poirot in the PBS Mystery series, Poirot. Suchet took the train from England to Calais where he boarded The Orient Express and then rode it from Calais to Prague. My pleasure of sharing this adventure with him was my great escape and much needed. Ah, if I could take any journey, this would be the one; Emma, too, would enjoy it; she sailed on the QE II (the Queen Elizabeth II). What a history those individual Orient Express coaches have had – living through World War II – some used by Hitler – and before, each of the remaining now impeccably restored, after a ceremony attended by Princess Grace of Monaco who drew interest to the train and thanks to James Sherwood of Kentucky who put up the money, to the original with the Lalique glass, the Gérard Gallet interiors with veneers of wooden marquetry incorporating Eastern designs.
Emma, a lover of fine art, haute décor and travel would have loved this. Sadly, had I put her in front of the TV to watch it, nothing much would have registered. She probably would have dozed off. I despair that I cannot share these things with her which I know would fascinate her and she would enjoy. Emma is long gone; what’s left is an empty shell, impervious to being restored.
For now, here at home, I luxuriate in a virtual ride on the Orient Express and am bolstered by being in the company of these great artists.
–Samantha, May 29, 2011